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Songs of Praise school choir of the year winners named

18 May 2015, Katy Wright

Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech
Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech

Llanelli's Ysgol Iau Llangennech and Hereford Cathedral School's Cantabile Girls’ Choir have been announced as the winners of the 2015 BBC Songs of Praise school choir of the year competition.

Ysgol Iau Llangennech won the junior school category, while Cantabile Girls’ Choir took the senior school title. The final, which took place at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, was broadcast on BBC One on 17 May.

Lewis Richards, conductor of Ysgol Iau Llangennech said: ‘The children give so much time and energy during rehearsals. I’m over the moon that they have something to show for their efforts and perseverance. The children were determined to perform their socks off in the final, and that’s exactly what they did!’

Cantabile had appeared in the finals of the competition before, and have also won the international Eisteddfod on two occasions. Music director Jo Williamson said: ‘Words cannot express how happy I am for the girls – I’m so proud of them and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.  They have worked so hard for this moment and gave everything they had – heart and soul!’

Dave Stanford, executive producer of Songs of Praise, said: ‘The judges faced a difficult decision for both categories because the standard of entries was so high. Cantabile Girls’ Choir achieved success after an outstanding performance and Ysgol Iau Llangennech were faultless. Many congratulations to both the schools. The Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year competition has been running since 2003 and we are always knocked out by the quality and enthusiasm of the school choirs which enter.’

A new judging panel for the 2015 competition included: JB Gill, from boy band JLS; vocal coach and opera singer Yvie Burnett from The Voice; and Tim Rhys-Evans, the founder of Welsh male voice choirs Only Men Aloud and Only Boys Aloud.

The other finalists were Queen’s Young Voices (Chester) and Lindley Junior School Choir (Huddersfield) for the junior category, and Twyford Church of England High School Choir (London) and Strathearn School Chamber Choir (Belfast) for the senior category.

The competition launched in 2003 and attracts hundreds of entries annually. Over 45,000 young singers have entered to date.

Lesley-Ann Smith joins Kent Music as Head of Teaching and Learning 

29 January 2015

Music teacher and double bass player Lesley-Ann Smith has joined Kent Music as its new Head of Teaching and Learning, leading a network of more than 150 instrumental and vocal tutors working with up to 12,000 people a year across Kent and Medway. 

Originally from Prestwick in Ayrshire, Lesley-Ann graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Music Performance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2007. She has played as a freelance double bassist with professional orchestras across Scotland, including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Scottish Opera. Her early career was spent working as an instrumental instructor with multiple Instrumental Music Services and as a community musician for Artlink Central. 

As Education & Projects Officer at Enterprise Music Scotland, Lesley-Ann designed and managed their first music education conference, Music Education Matters, in 2014. There she designed and administered over 90 music education workshops annually across Scotland as well as chamber music projects and training events. She was most recently Team Leader Music Development at West Dunbartonshire Council where she managed the Instrumental Music Service. 

Peter Bolton, Chief Executive of Kent Music, said: “Lesley-Ann is a talented musician with wide experience of organising music tuition at all levels and I am delighted to welcome her to Kent as our new Head of Teaching and Learning.” 

Government publishes new GCSE, AS and A Level subject content

28 January 2015, Thomas Lydon

The Department for Education has published details of the subject content for the GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in music to be taught from autumn 2016. It is anticipated that exam boards will soon publish their own specifications, based on these guidelines.

The headline here is that the much-criticised compulsory 1700 to 1900 area of study at all levels has been widened to the more conventional stylistic boundaries of 1650 and 1910, largely due to the efforts of the ISM's Protect Music Education campaign. The other specification at all levels has also been re-framed, now stating that one other area of study ‘must not be drawn from the Western Classical Tradition’. Otherwise, there are no huge surprises here, with the final content guidelines being based  largely on the consultation documents published last July.

Some of the more proscriptive language around the demands on the composition element at all levels has been dropped (no longer must students be able to show that they have achieved their work through one or more of a set list of ‘means’, including experimenting, developing, or critical refinement).

At GCSE, the ‘musical elements’ have been updated to include sequences (listed at A Level in the consultation) chord progressions and simple modulations.

At AS and A Level, we're pleased to report that the ISM’s sub-campaign to save the gerund has been successful, and the terms ‘performance and composition’ from the consultation documents have been re-phrased as ‘performing and composing’, presumably in response to the ISM’s stated preference for stressing the ‘musical processes’ rather than the ‘end products of study’. Elsewhere, in the ‘musical elements’ section, all reference to identifying sonorities of different instrumental groupings has been removed, and there is some genuinely interesting new wording in the 'musical context' section. Lastly of note, in the ‘appraise’ section, the requirement to be able to make critical judgement about your own work has been removed.

The GCSE content can be found here

The AS and A Level content can be found here

If you want to play a game of 'spot the difference', here are the consultations documents for GCSE and AS/A Level.

New Chairmen for EU Youth Orchestra

22 January 2015

The European Union Youth Orchestra is in a period of considerable change and development, in fulfilling the objectives of ‘Towards 2020’, its international cooperation project co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe programme. It is in this context that the well known arts advocates ,Sir John Tusa and Ian Stoutzker, CBE, have joined the Trustees as Co-Chairmen with immediate effect.  


President and Co-founder, Joy Bryer: ‘Sir John brings unique talents to the future of the Orchestra and will, I am convinced, give it broader understanding and worldwide attention. Ian’s dedication to Live Music Now epitomises the great need for culture in today’s world. He will be a significant and inspirational addition to the team’.

Obituary: Michael Kennedy, 19 February 1926 ‒ 31 December 2014

21 January 2015

The death of Michael Kennedy at the age of 88 removes perhaps the key remaining source of reminiscence of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Their close friendship meant the former’s biography of the composer carried a special authority, although (as Kennedy reminded me just before Christmas), ‘VW’ was frustratingly tight-lipped about his own music.


Kennedy’s passion for British music is also reflected in studies of Britten, Elgar and Walton. Other biographies include those of fellow (if adopted) Mancunian John Barbirolli (another close friend and like-minded cricket-lover) and Adrian Boult. To these must also be added significant works on Mahler and Richard Strauss, and editions of the Oxford Dictionary of Music which eventually also involved his devoted second wife Joyce. The couple’s shared love of opera prompted travels far and wide in recent times.

Above all, Kennedy was a journalist, rising to become northern editor of the Daily Telegraph, a post he held for 26 years having started his career at the paper as a 15-year-old copyboy. Always, however, there was the pull of music reviewing, both for the daily and Sunday editions. He was chief music critic of the latter until 2005. In an interview for CM we discussed whether or not he suffered from writer’s block. Occasionally, he admitted, ‘but once I find my first sentence, I’m off’.

Kennedy was an accomplished broadcaster on tv and radio, shown not least in contributions to Radio 3′s Building a Library, although he was never a sharply critical critic: he admitted it wasn’t his style.

 The renaissance of the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder gave Kennedy huge satisfaction. Fitting, then, that this time last year he was putting his weight behind the orchestra’s involvement in a major project featuring his beloved Richard Strauss.


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